Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Review: Forbidden

Title: Forbidden
Author: Kimberley Griffiths Little
Series: Forbidden
Volume: 1
Genre: Historical Fiction

A Quick Introduction: Jayden should be happy. She's engaged to the son of her tribal leader, which will bring her both power and riches, and restore her family's position. But instead, she fears that she's going to be entering a marriage without love, and possibly without safety- she doesn't trust her betrothed at all. When she meets Kadesh, a stranger from the south, she becomes convinced that she cannot go through with her marriage, despite the risks to both her and her family should she refuse.

Out of Ten: 2/10

Review at a Glance: With poor world-building, bountiful info-dumping, weak characterisation, and a completely flat romance, this story really didn't work for me.

Review: I didn't like this one. I think my biggest complaint was that there was absoloutely no sense of place. This book tells a story about rich and vibrant cultures with all of the charisma of a poorly edited, dry textbook. I am familiar with the concept of a desert, thanks.

 A major contributor to this is that the novel is rife with simply telling, rather than showing. There were paragraphs that just related information about locations and lifestyles, without actually giving any sense of what it must be like to live in said locations with said lifestyles. There were things that I could clearly tell were unrealistic in the context of the world and time period, for all the information provided.

The characters, which were... flat. This may partly have because the narrator and main character, Jayden, spent so much time being a vessel through which to infodump, but "flat" really is the best way I can think of to describe them. They seem more like over-described concepts than characters. The way that they speak feels incredibly stilted, the prose just feels unnatural an there isn't any flow. Couple that with the fact that none of them ever seemed to learn from their mistakes, and you have a recipe for frustrated boredom.

There was zero chemistry. I don't even think there was an attempt to create chemistry.  I had no idea why the characters were attracted to each other, and happened unrealistically fast. While I did feel some sympathy for Jayden's position (arranged to marry someone she fears) I didn't enjoy the direction it was taken and the way that story was told. It was just one part of a plot that was both unmemorable and scattered, and I didn't find myself interested.

Overall, this really wasn't the book for me. It fell down on just about every front, and I really don't think I'll be continuing with the series.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Review: Winter

Title: Winter
Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles
Volume: 4
Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Re-Telling

A Quick Introduction: Cinder and her motley crew are heading to Luna to start a revolution- something that turns  out to be even more complicated than planned. Things seem to go wrong every turn, and they find themselves on Luna struggling to survive, much less lead an army and dethrone Levana.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: A fairly satisfying conclusion to a sci-fi fantasy retelling.

Review: Well, that was a long one. Seriously, it breached 800 pages, which is not insignificant, especially for a YA novel. This was one of my most anticipated releases, and, it was more or less what I expected. It isn't that I didn't enjoy it, it just... didn't astound me either, I suppose. The series wraps up with a twist on Snow White- which was in a lot of ways further from its inspirational material than the others, because of how much of a life the story itself has taken on.

When I reviewed Cress, I mentioned that I was becoming aware that Cinder was becoming my favourite, and that held true in this book- her and Kai both finished the series as my favourites, both individually and as a pair. They're part of a pretty big cast, all of whom are very much individuals, and have varied relationships with each other- I really enjoy seeing Cinder's team in all of their eclectic glory. Though I generally enjoyed most of the characters, there were a few time that some of them felt a little inconsistent.

The plot is complex, alternating between multiple storylines; I'm not sure if there was just more going on this time around, but I really noticed it. In the other books, there was still a flow, but this one had moments of feeling scattered- and there was something about some aspects of the plot that felt almost repetitive. I'm not entirely sure how to explain it other than that.

That slightly disconcerting feeling aside, I really did have fun reading this one (can you tell I'm having a hard time not talking spoilers? I am). It was interesting to explore Luna after so long hearing about it, and I definitely did enjoy some aspects of the plot, even if others left something to be desired for me. The conclusion was generally satisfying, though I would have enjoyed an epilogue (and I hear their actually might be something in the works for the short story collection). One aspect of this series is that it really does maintain an almost fairytale-esque arc, in a way, while adding a whole lot of other stuff that gives it a really neat feel.

Overall, I have a had lot of fun reading this series, and it is probably a world that I'll be revisiting in rereads in not too long, and I am looking forward to the release of the short story anthology.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Review: Illuminae

Title: Illuminae
Authors: Amie Koffman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files
Volume: 1
Genre: Science Fiction

A Quick Introduction: In the morning Kady broke up with Ezra. In the afternoon their planet was attacked and she saved his life, and that's just the beginning. They make it out alive on separate ships, but enemy ships pursue the evacuating ships. Couple that with a damaged AI, a mutant plague, and secrets being kept by high command.

Out of Ten: 9/10

Review at a Glance: A showstopper of a first book in what promises to be an fast-paced science fiction trilogy.

Review: This novel took a lot of my favourite things and combined them in a way I didn't know I wanted. I mean; outer space, AIs, existential terror, sarcasm, and emotional trauma all wrapped up in an oh-so-gorgeous package? I'm there. I'm all over that.

Okay, so let's review this thing. This is, hands down, one of my favourite books of the year. Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff chose to tell this story as a collection of found documents- a series of journals, interviews, military files, medical reports, transcripts of emails, and computer data- and it works really well. It opens up interesting possibilities for the storytelling choices, and the authors take full advantage of them. They make the story fast-paced, and full of twists. I loved way that this story was told. And it is SUCH a visually beautiful book. (Seriously, I don't say this often, this is a book that you really want in hardcover. It is so beautiful.)

Kady and Ezra are both enjoyable characters to read- they're both very human, and I found myself rooting for them. Their dynamic is interesting- they're clearly two people who care a lot about each other, but they definitely have their conflicts. There's a whole cast of more minor characters, and an Artificial Intelligence that could almost be considered a main character itself.

This book had a lot going on- and I mean a lot. The plot is complex and multi-layered, and builds quickly, growing more complex with each event. It starts off fast and gets faster, and the authors sure aren't opposed to killing off characters. Behind the flashes and bangs, there's a very human element to the whole story (read as: lots of heartbreak, humour, and sadness). I'm really looking forward to seeing where this series goes next!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Top (Not Quite) Ten Debut Authors Who Have Me Looking Forward To Their Sophomore Novel

Top Ten Tuesdays is a weekly feature created at The Broke and The Bookish.

Wow, I really haven't read many debut recently...

1. Renee Adheih: I'm really looking forward to the sequel to The Wrath and the Dawn.

2. Sarah Biggs Waller: I really enjoyed A Mad, Wicked Folly and her next book is about ORCHID HUNTING, people. (On top of being a book nerd, I am a natural history nerd.)

3. Joy N. Hensley: I am secretly not-so-secretly hoping for a sequel to Rites of Passage, but I'd definitely give something else by her a try.

4. Maria Dahvana Headley: I adored Magonia, and I'm really looking forward to the sequel. (I know, Maria Dahvana Headley isn't exactly a debut, but this was here YA debut novel.)

5. Sabaa Tahir: I'm looking forward to the sequel to An Ember in the Ashes.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Review: All In

Title: All In
Author: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Series: The Naturals
Volume: 3
Genre: Mystery
Release Date: November 3, 2015

A Quick Introduction: Cassie and the rest of the Naturals are called to Las Vegas on a case, just as Cassie receives word that a body fitting her mother's description has been discovered. As she tries not to dwell on it, they face a killer whose pattern is difficult to understand, who changes methods of killing with each kill, and who hasn't been caught on camera despite killing in public.

Out of Ten: 7/10

Review at a Glance: An enjoyable addition to a fast-paced YA mystery series.

Review: Due a mysterious collection of circumstances, this book came into my hands a bit early. By which I mean the library somehow managed to get a book to me before the release date. As opposed to its usual "a good six weeks after the release date, minimum." Anyway, to onward to the review.

This latest installment, the second-to-last one in the series, takes Cassie and her fellow Naturals to Las Vegas to investigate a serial killer that has been proving unpredictable. After four kills in less than, the killer seems to stop- but serial killers don't just stop. The weapon is different every time, the degree of involvement is different every time, the only consistent thing is the wrists of the victims are marked with numbers. This case is a challenge that is pushing the Naturals further than they've ever been, and its bringing a lot of things to light about all of them. And with a body matching Cassie's mother's description having been found after five years, she has as much to deal with as anyone.

One of my favourite parts of this book was getting to see the Naturals grow as a group. They've all been through a lot, and they're finally all starting to find support in each other. Its a strange, shifting sort of equilibrium, and I really like reading it. They're all growing as people, and they've all got very different relationships with everyone else, and it enriches the reading experience.

The plot was something that let me down a bit in the first book, but I now think that was mostly because I was expecting it to be a little more... real, almost? Once you get past expecting the plot to be 100% believable, it's all fine. Now that I've gotten used to the way the plots in this series flow, I found it interesting to follow. Everything is connected to the characters in these plots, in a way that murders realistically probably wouldn't be, if that makes sense. There's something that makes the characters feel like characters in a story, rather than people in a story, sometimes.

The writing style makes these novels an odd, interesting combination of lightness and grimmer themes. I generally don't love getting a peak in the killer's head when I'm reading murder mysteries (it ruins the surprise), but the way that Jennifer Lynn Barnes uses second person actually makes the point of view a unique contributor to the story.

Overall, this was a fast-paced, entertaining continuation of the series. People who enjoyed the first two are likely to enjoy this one. While there are still flaws, it makes an enjoyable quick read, and I'm really looking forward to reading the finale.